Novel Heads by Harry Written by Lois-Ann Yamanaka Takes Us into the Lives of People from Hilo, Hawaii

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Lois-Ann Yamanaka’s fictional novel Heads by Harry is a remarkably raw and exciting read that dives the reader into the lives of the working class people of Hilo during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Based on the life of Antoinette “Toni” Yagyuu, a Japanese-American girl who grew up in Hilo, Yamanaka’s novel does an exceptionally well job capturing the lives, personalities, and hardships many of these people faced during this time. She creates a ‘secondary world’ that is reflective of the Hilo in the 70’s and 80’s and brings it to life through the geography and experiences she depicts within the novel (Kneale, 2003). As the daughter of a local taxidermist and school teacher, Toni, the protagonist of the novel, finds herself trying to meet the expectations of her father and also finds herself in the shadow of her older extravagant brother Sheldon and her beautiful and smart younger sister Bunny. As the story progresses with its interesting and alluring plot with many references to Hilo’s landscape, readers are introduced to a Hilo that many visitors and new comers to the island may find shocking and unusual. Contrary to the Hawaii that is often depicted in movies and magazines as a paradise with white sandy beaches and friendly welcoming people, Yamanaka’s novel depicts local life with gruesome activities such as hunting for wild animals, partying, drinking, drug use and family quarrels. Yamanaka indeed delivers a compelling story with her novel Heads by Harry where regardless if you are a local or not, one can relate to the ups, downs and experiences of the characters. Toni Yagyuu, the main character of the novel, experiences and overcomes many obstacles while growing up in the shadow of her siblings and failing to meet the expectatio... ... middle of paper ... ...ink or chit chat about everyday life. Nowadays, Hilo has become more advanced with big shopping stores such as Walmart and Target and people no longer live close to one another like before. In conclusion, I found myself captivated by this new and unusual Hilo I had been reading about in Yamanaka’s fictional novel Heads by Harry. It is the Hilo that I have yet to see and witness for myself, yet it is also the Hilo that many locals believe was brought to real life in Yamanaka’s novel. Although the whole culture, pidgin language, and vibrant personalities were a breath of fresh air to me as a newcomer to Hawaii, I was still able to build a connection to the characters’ experiences within the novel. Yamanaka definitely brought the Hilo of the 70’s and 80’s to life by capturing the geography, culture, and obstacles of what real people experience.

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